Pope Benedict XVI appointed six new cardinals on Saturday and as many Vatican watchers have noted, none of the six were European.
Cardinals, sometimes called princes of the Church, are select Catholic bishops who as a group will form a conclave to elect the next pope in the event of Benedict XVI’s death or resignation. As a whole, cardinals are referred to as the College of Cardinals. The Associated Press reports that only cardinals under the age of 80 may participate in a conclave, and with the elevation of six on Saturday, there are now 12o cardinals eligible to vote.
In the ceremony, called consistory, wherein the the cardinals were created, Pope Benedict XVI did not specifically address criticisms that the College of Cardinals is not representative of the Church at large, but his appointments could be seen as a response. Critics within the Church have complained that Europe, where church attendance and influence are waning, has too many cardinals while the rest of the world where the faith is growing are under represented.
Saturday’s consistory created six new cardinals, and none of them were from Europe. Reuters reports that the new cardinals are: “American Archbishop James Michael Harvey, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, a major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara rite in India, Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon, and Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja.”
In addition to electing a new pope when the old one leaves office, cardinals also serve as advisers to the pope, who is the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.25 billion Catholics.
Of the 120 voting-age cardinals, the largest block is from Italy, which has 28. In all 62 cardinals are from Europe, and 58 are from the rest of the world. North America has 14 cardinals with Harvey’s elevation.